Breaking Down This Week's Biggest Rumours: Ronaldo United Reunion Remote
Another week done, another week closer to the January transfer window.
It can only mean the transfer rumour mill is beginning to gain impetus, and the newspaper speculation has not let us down.
Several high-profile players have featured in gossip reports this week, with Cristiano Ronaldo, almost inevitably, leading the way.
But does the transfer speculation stack up? Here, we assess some of the stories emerging from the print media this week.
Dimitar Berbatov Barcelona Talk Raises Eyebrows
One of the more eye-catching items from the past seven days was Ben Jefferson’s piece in the Express on Tuesday which suggested Barcelona were looking at Dimitar Berbatov.
Yes, you read it right. Barcelona, the side leading the way in La Liga and among the favourites to lift the Champions League trophy, are looking at a striker who is currently struggling for goals with a side in the Premier League relegation zone.
In his piece, Jefferson wrote:
Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov has emerged as a surprise target for Spanish giants Barcelona with manager Gerardo Martino intrigued by the technique and experience of the former Manchester United and Tottenham striker.
Reports in Spain suggest that Barca are contemplating adding short-term cover for the injured Lionel Messi and Berbatov's name is on the list.
Whilst Martino is thought to have faith in Neymar and Alexis Sanchez, the Argentinian boss is open to the idea of adding a veteran back-up "just in case" if costs can be kept down.
The eighth word of Jefferson’s piece pretty much sums things up: surprise. It has certainly surprised many observers. Taking to Twitter, The Positive Gooner wrote:
Dear Lord. Where are this Berbatov to Barca rumours coming from? Total BS imo.— The Positive Gooner (@goonerdan19) November 19, 2013
It was a similar response from Tom Coast, although we did have to censor part of the tweet.
Just seen an article linking Berbatov to #FCB. Imagine Dimitar in that system… Casually walking around up top, not giving a ****. Fantastic.— Tom Coast (@sardinetrawler) November 19, 2013
Berbatov is a player of proven talent and he has the technical ability to ensure he would not look out of place in any team.
But he is struggling for form in a struggling team. In 10 Premier League outings this season, Berbatov has a solitary goal to his name and has yet to contribute any assists.
Per Squawka, in the 2012/13 season, Berbatov helped himself to 15 goals from 33 games, and fashioned three other goals.
If it were a fit and firing Berbatov, there could well be merit in the claim that Barcelona are considering a January bid. But he is not firing, and Barca have a wealth of attacking options to fill the temporary void left by Messi’s injury.
Summer signing Neymar has been operating on the wing when starting alongside Messi, but he is well capable, and comfortable, down the centre.
If coach Martino prefers, he can also deploy Pedro as he attacking option, with the likes of Neymar, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Andres Iniesta and Xavi all providing attacking support.
Martino could shock and make a January move for Berbatov, but he is not the sort of player that would strike fear into their Champions League rivals, nor would the Bulgarian’s arrival wow the Camp Nou faithful.
Believability Factor: Low
If Berbatov were to make a move from Fulham in January, it would be astounding if he ended up at Barcelona.
Chelsea Favourites to Sign Xabi Alonso but Manchester United Can't Be Ruled out
Real manager Carlo Ancelotti has refuted any idea that Alonso will leave the club in January, stressing the importance of the 31-year-old to his plans this season.
But with Alonso's contract expiring at the end of the current La Liga campaign, the player will be available to sign a pre-contract agreement with another club, which is the thrust of Lustig's article.
Ancelotti shot down suggestions of a swap deal for Andrea Pirlo with Juventus in an interview with Mediaset:
Xabi is a vital player for Madrid now that he's recovered from injury. There are only two players like him in Europe. One is Pirlo and the other is Xabi.
However, we have no intention of making a player-exchange deal with Juventus. There is no substance to any rumour like that.
I am still in touch with Andrea because I have a good relationship with him. I was pleased to see the Madrid fans give him a warm welcome when we met.
Likening Alonso to Pirlo is a measure of the esteem the Real boss holds his midfielder, but as Bleacher Report world football tactics lead writer Sam Tighe highlighted this week, the logical destination for Alonso is Stamford Bridge and a reunion with Jose Mourinho:
Deep midfield has been a problem area for Mourinho so far this season and perhaps stands as the only weak link in the squad.
A fix using the current crop would see Oscar drop into a different role, but Mou's faith in the Brazilian as a No. 10 is unwavering.
Alonso would provide elite-level creativity and defensive stability. He'd need a shuttler alongside him in a 4-2-3-1, so the retention of Ramires (or recruitment of a similar player) also becomes key.
Mou will know the Spaniard's game inside-out from the three years they spent together at the Bernabeu. He'd be absolutely mad not to make him his top priority should Alonso's wish to leave become clear.
Chelsea should be clear favourites to bring Alonso to the Premier League, but United represent a tempting force if David Moyes chooses to throw his hat into the ring.
Indeed, Lustig reported in the Daily Star last week that the Old Trafford club had opened talks with Alonso, but would the former Anfield favourite be willing to risk the wrath of Liverpool supporters with a move to Old Trafford?
Believability factor: High
Real Madrid have allowed Alonso's contract to run down to this point in time, which could be viewed as an indication that his time is up at the Bernabeu.
The real question is where he will end up. Chelsea must be viewed as favourites with Mourinho at the Stamford Bridge helm.
But Manchester United cannot be ruled out just yet, with Moyes seeking a high-profile midfielder to boost his squad.
Bacary Sagna Better off Staying at Arsenal Amid Napoli Speculation
The arrival of Mesut Ozil at Arsenal before the summer transfer window closed has provided several players with a renewed impetus.
The names of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud are the obvious ones who have enjoyed a renaissance alongside the Germany international.
So when Nick Lustig of the Daily Star reported that Napoli manager Rafael Benitez had short-listed the France international for a January move, there may have been a collective gasp among Gunners supporters.
Benitez recently added free agent Anthony Reveillere, 34, to his squad on a shoirt-term basis in a bid to plug the gap left by the loss of full-backs Camilo Zuniga and Giandomenico Mesto to injury.
Any move for 30-year-old Sagna will not be welcomed by Wenger, but the player has still not committed himself to a new contract at the club.
That fact alone has made him fair game for transfer speculation, and Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail reported last month that Wenger and Arsenal are preparing for the loss of Sagna.
The defender has been a notable presence for the Gunners this season, and his work down the right flank has been enhanced by the versatility he displayed covering for Per Mertesacker in the win at Sunderland.
Such attributes will not have gone unnoticed by Benitez, but Sagna brings invaluable experience to Wenger's squad.
Losing Sagna would be a big disappointment to Wenger and his team, but the decision is really down to the player himself here.
Sagna will be 31 in February and his next deal will, inevitably, be his last opportunity at the high end of the pay scale but also his final one to earn a major signing-on fee.
Believability factor: Medium
The warning signs have been there for Arsenal with regard to Sagna, but his loss would be keenly felt by the current in-form Gunners.
The north London side are top of the Premier League, and are making solid progress in a difficult Champions League group.
The next move lies with Sagna. Does he stick or twist in the autumn of his career? This is a tough one to call, but is a move to Napoli really a step-up from Arsenal?
West Ham Eye Diego Forlan Coup
Thursday’s Daily Mirror threw up the tantalising prospect of Diego Forlan's return to the Premier League in January.
A report under the byline of Mirror Football stated: “West Ham are poised to make a surprise move for former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan when the transfer window reopens in January.”
This report certainly caught the eye, given Forlan’s record as a goalscorer and the Hammers’ lack of potency in front of goal so far this season.
With Andy Carroll remaining on the sidelines, West Ham are lacking a leader in front of goal and the Mirror’s piece states manager Sam Allardyce is “desperate to strengthen his forward line.”
With just nine goals in the league so far this season, “desperate” is not a bad word to sum-up the Hammers plight.
Unlike a number of Premier League managers, Allardyce does not have a bottomless pit of money at his disposal. As such he will need to operate at a level below the cream of the crop, which is likely to feature young players of potential, or proven veterans.
Forlan falls into the latter category. At 34, Forlan has had spells with Manchester United, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, among other clubs. It was only really with United, from 2001 to 2004, that he struggled in front of goal.
It could be viewed that he has unfinished business in the Premier League.
Forlan is on the books of Brazilian side Internacional, but he has been struggling for regular playing time.
He is also a squad player for Uruguay, which is no real surprise given national coach Oscar Tabarez has Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani at his disposal.
Despite his lack of playing time, Forlan is, injury notwithstanding, guaranteed a place in the squad for the World Cup. As such, it would not be viewed a gamble were he to head for pastures new in January.
In a recent interview, picked up by Sky Sports, Forlan spoke of his desire to play on until he is 40.
I want to make clear that I don't have retirement in mind from football, from my current team and from the Uruguayan national team.
I dream to play until the age of 40, similar to the way my father did. I am going to try and reach that objective.
A six-year deal is not going to be on the table at West Ham, but he could easily pick up an 18-month commitment.
Allardyce is no stranger to picking up star names many felt were on the wane and giving them a new lease of life, think Youri Djorkaeff and Jay Jay Okocha while he was at Bolton, so Forlan could be an option.
It is unlikely Internacional would demand a large fee for his services, which could make it a gamble worth taking for the Hammers:
Believability Factor: Medium to High
With West Ham in need of goals and Forlan seeking to revive his career, a January move from Uruguay to East London is not as ridiculous as it sounds.
Cristiano Ronaldo Return to Manchester United Is Unlikely Prospect
News that David Moyes is still hopeful of bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back to Manchester United will not come as a surprise, but the actual transfer is a little less likely.
United supporters awoke on Saturday morning to the possibility of the Real Madrid star making an emotional return to Old Trafford after Moyes declared his interest in the player, as Rob Brennan of the Daily Mail reported.
It was inevitable that the subject of Ronaldo returning to United would resurface after a week in which he guided Portugal to the World Cup finals and emerged as the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or in January ahead of Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery.
But would Ronaldo really want to leave Real for United? It seems unlikely.
There is no doubting that Ronaldo retains a strong affection for the club, as he proved when he refused to celebrate his winning goal in the Champions League last-16 tie at Old Trafford last season.
The forward embraced then United manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the first leg of the tie in a move which also sparked rumours of a United return, as The Metro highlighted at the time.
However, former United assistant manager Mike Phelan hinted that Ferguson's retirement in May had put an end to any possibility of Ronaldo rejoining, as David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror reported last month.
Ronaldo now has the football word at his feet after his displays in the World Cup play-off against Sweden underlined his credentials as the best player in the world in 2013.
Believability factor: Low
One day, just one day, Ronaldo may return to Old Trafford as a United player. But not for a while yet.
The Portugal international still has much to achieve at the Bernabeu, where he is worshipped by the supporters.
The departure of Ferguson from the United hot seat has, ultimately, ensured a return for Ronaldo is unlikely. Or at least until Moyes has proven himself to be on the same track to success as his predecessor.
Manchester United Defender Patrice Evra Wanted by Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco
This rumour bears all the hallmarks of a definite in our eyes.
Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star Sunday reported on Sunday that both Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco were lining up lucrative moves for Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
According to Hetherington, the France international will receive a £5 million signing-on fee, which will be spread over a four-year contract worth £31.2 million.
The numbers are quite stunning, and will prove very difficult for the left-back, 32, to turn down as his current Old Trafford deal draws to its close at the end of the season.
The move would be a "no-brainer" in popular parlance for Evra.
His next deal will represent a last chance at earning big money, while David Moyes has already secured the services of Leighton Baines from Everton, according to a report by David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror last week.
Baines represents a player Moyes knows and trusts after bringing him to Goodison Park from Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2007. And since then, Baines has gone on to become a full England international.
Moyes will be bringing in trusted experience, leaving Evra, despite his achievements at Old Trafford, facing an uncertain future at the club.
The only question for Evra now must be: PSG or Monaco?
Believability meter: Very high
Evra has been a fabulous servant for Manchester United since joining the club from Monaco in 2006.
However, time waits for no man and the time is right for both Evra and United to part ways, as Bleacher Report featured columnist Rob Blanchette noted this week.
PSG might still be the French champions, but the possibility of an emotional return to Monaco must weigh heavily in favour of Claudio Ranieri winning the race for the left-back.